Hello, I am Iris. I love reading, and on this blog I track my journey through different worlds of (non)fiction. You can learn a little about myself, my blog, and my reading in the following paragraphs.
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As I mentioned, my name is Iris. I’m a 24-year-old girl who lives in the Netherlands. While I enjoy living in my country, there are two countries that I often dream about. In 2010, I spent a few months in Sweden and loved the country and its people. I would love to return to it someday. I can also often be found daydreaming about someday living in the UK, as I am a bit of an Anglophile. I recently graduated with a major in religious studies and history and I am currently looking for my first “real” job. While I am no longer part of the academic world, I still love to learn. I’m particularly passionate about nineteenth and twentieth century history, gender studies, (post)colonial studies and intercultural and interreligious encounters.
There is a reason that I feature a picture of myself in Disneyland on my about page. The first being that it is one of the few pictures in which I do not squint my eyes at the sun, or have them closed altogether. The second one is that I still very much enjoy things that some people might consider “childish”. So yes, my recent holiday to Disneyland was one of the highlights of 2011. And apart from that, I can often be found talking enthousiastically about upcoming children’s movies, children’s books, or bunnies.
Apart from reading, I also love music, attending concerts, watching movies and TV series together with friends, dancing, and this past year I have been trying to love running, although I often take breaks which means I have to start all over again. So let’s say I love the thought of running. If you want to know more about my other interest, you can see what I am listening to on last.fm, and I can be found fangirling about almost anything over at my Tumblr page.
When I contemplate my childhood as a reader, I often remember my daydreams about wanting to be like Belle from Beauty and the Beast, dancing around with a book in my hand, or how reading Matilda by Roald Dahl made me want to be as smart as her and read all the books in the library from A-Z. But really, I’m not sure if these are just things I emphasise now to define my identity as a reader, or if I really considered myself “a reader”, even in childhood.
My obsession with reading came to the fore again when I discovered the Harry Potter books at the age of eleven. I read the first few in Dutch, until I simply couldn’t wait that long for the release date and started reading them in English. Around that same time, I must have been aged 14, I discovered Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, which led to a complete and utter obsession with all things Austen. I am still a recovering Jane Austen lover, although my reading is no longer contained to trying to find the next perfect couple like Elizabeth and Darcy (Pride and Prejudice), Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth (Persuasion), and later Margaret Hale and John Thornton (Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South), and Jane Eyre and Edward Rochester (Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre). However, these books still inform my taste in reading, and these titles and its authors still feature firmly among my list of all time favourites.
That list of favourites has expanded considerably in the past few years, and now includes a number of writers of whom I want to read all published works. Among my favourite authors are Elizabeth von Arnim, Jane Austen, Abdelkader Benali, Charlotte Brontë, E.M. Delafield, Jonathan Safran Foer, Elizabeth Gaskell, Nicole Krauss, Margo Lanagan, Astrid Lindgren, Patrick Ness, Dorothy Whipple. While this list may seem quite long, I still consider myself an amateur and insecure reader, with lots of exploration ahead of me.
I enjoy reading from a number of genres, mostly (forgotten) classics; contemporary literature, of which I try to focus one half on translated fiction; literature by women authors (this is, in part, a deliberate attempt to counter the prevalence of exposure for male authors); (paranormal, fantasy, and dystopian) Young Adult. If blogging has taught me anything, it is to broaden my horizons and give any genre a try. I find genre elitism problematic. If not for the assumptions that come with the idea that Young Adult is only for those looking for simple stories, Classics and Literary Fiction as genres for the educated and smart, and Fantasy for the geeks, which is a reasoning I dislike, another reason would be that I find it quite difficult to draw definitive lined between certain genres. Novels I do usually avoid are those of the horror, mystery, and suspense genre. Not because I find them “beneath me”, but simply because yes, I am that girl who reads a scary story and subsequently cannot sleep.
In recent years, I have not read much non-fiction, because I was buried in textbooks trying to complete my Master education, but perhaps my hobby reading of non-fiction will pick up again now that I have graduated. Usually, I prefer books that deal with history, gender, memoir/(auto)biography, culture, and religion. On the topic of gender, I participate in the Year of Feminist Classics reading project, which often features feminist non-fiction titles.
People often ask me whether I read in Dutch or English when they learn about my location. My answer is that I usually read in English. It is not so much a deliberate choice as something that has grown to be my preference over the years. English books are often cheaper than Dutch ones, and since I can read in English I see no use in waiting for a Dutch translation when I could have earlier access to the book. I also enjoy the thought of reading books in their original language, which is why I prefer to read a large chunk of my fiction in English. When a book was originally written in a language different from Dutch or English, I do not mind reading the Dutch translation instead of the English. But picking up the English version has become quite automatic to me. In an effort to read more Dutch literature myself, and to promote Dutch literature in translation, I host a Dutch Literature Month in June of each year.
I started Iris on Books on 1 April 2010, moving over from a previous blog that was three months old and slowly transformed into a blog with books as its focus. At the time, I was not aware of the large book blogging community out there, but once I found other book bloggers, I was sure that this was a community that I would like to be part of.
Iris on Books was started as a reading journal, a place to track my thoughts, experiences, and questions while reading various books. This initial idea still stands. I do not consider myself so much a book reviewer as someone who posts her thoughts about books to share them with like-minded people, and preferably to learn and grow from the interaction with other readers. The interaction and exchange of ideas with fellow readers is one of the things I value most about book blogging.
What you will find on this blog are posts about almost every book I have read (I tend to procrastinate writing about certain books, especially those I love best, so some books might be missing). I like to intersperse these “review-like” posts with reading journal entries, usually in the form of Anastasia‘s Thursday Tea meme. On top of that, I like to reflect on reading, literature, blogging, and publishing in discussion posts, most of which appear under the Sunday Salon heading.
Since I am an amateur reader, who has not been educated in any way to reflect on literature professionally, it is never my intention to come across as an authority on any of the subjects I write about. I have taken some classes in gender studies and postcolonialism, and some of my review posts and discussion posts tend to reflect on these issues quite a lot, but I do not consider myself knowledgable enough to move beyond trying to find my own place in larger arguments, which often results in posts that formulate questions instead of answers. I admit, I like it that way. The fact that I am still learning also means that some of my older posts might reflect viewpoints I no longer agree with, or that I unintentionally marginalise certain literature, readers, or people in a post. I hope that I will learn from these experiences, and that I will remedy them to the best of my abilities. It is also why I find discussions in the comments so useful, since it allows me to learn from other people’s points of view. Hopefully, this also explains why I attempt to insert links to other people’s blog posts on books I have read. Through these links, I try to give people the opportunity to find additional information and other points of view on a book I have written about.
Since I started blogging, I have become more conscious of inequalities in representation in the literary world, which has led me to try to read more women authors. It also means I hope to concentrate on more GLBTQ literature and literature from authors outside of Europe and Northern America. I have to admit that this is still very much a work in progress, and especially the latter two categories are fields I still fail miserably at compared to my general reading statistics.
I love receiving feedback and/or personal responses from people who visit my blog. If you would like to, I encourage you to leave a comment on one of my posts. You may also contact me in any of the following ways: